Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Arnold and the 'Jehovah' mystery.

Back in the late 1960s a young friend and I created a Robot for the purposes of a Sunday School Anniversary. His name was Arnold. He had a speaker in his chest and heard through a microphone in his nose. His eyes flashed when he spoke and he was supposed to be helping me to tell a story but he kept on messing it up... to the children's delight! Arnold was operated by my young friend and that anniversary was his only proper performance.

However, Arnold began to make an appearance at the birthday parties of my children. He was the party manager's nightmare. He sang loud songs and constantly misinterpreted all the instructions that were given to him. It was hardly a real birthday party without 'Arnold'. 'Arnold' became part of our family legend. It was a great sadness when we moved house and Arnold was fatally damaged.

During his reign as king of the birthday parties Arnold was operated by me remotely from another room. I forget who it was who finally cracked his identity but someone suddenly said "I know who Arnold is; he's just a mixed up Ronald." The secret was out; Arnold is an anagram of Ronald. Arnold was a side of my character that most people never saw; anarchic and mischievous; the child who was always lurking in the background. Long after Arnold had gone if one of my mischievous moods came on me and I ended up fully clothed in the bath with all the children my wife's sensible rebuke was captured in a single word "ARNOLD!!"

Most of the folk reading this will never have known Arnold; the name of Arnold means nothing to them. But for those with a shared history just the mention of Arnold's name will bring a wry smile to their faces and transport the whole family back to long ago days. Remember Arnold while I recount another story...
and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty;
but by my name Jehovah I was not known to them. Ex 6:3 ASV
In fact, the name Jehovah is used in the book of Genesis alone 164 times before this event recorded in Exodus 6:3. So how can God say Abraham and Isaac and Jacob had never know him by that name? Read it carefully; it doesn't say they didn't know God and it doesn't say that they didn't know the name Jehovah, it says "I was not known to you by my name Jehovah." The name of Jehovah became a name with a history and when the name of Jehovah was used that shared history would awake in the memories of those who had shared it and knew that name. Arnold and Jehovah are names with histories; only those who have shared the history can appreciate what is meant by the word 'Arnold' or 'Jehovah'. There are aspects of God's character associated with that shared history that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had never known and never did know.

Jehovah was uniquely the name of God given to the people of the Old Covenant. whose story is told in the Old Testament; this is why the name never appears in the New Testament which is the story of the New Covenant and its people. Jehovah is the name of God as characterised by seven key elements of his relationship with the people of the Old Covenant;
I am Jehovah,
and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians,

and I will rid you out of their bondage

and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments:

and I will take you to me for a people,

and I will be to you a God; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God, who bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

And I will bring you in unto the land which I sware to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob;

and I will give it you for a heritage:

I am Jehovah. (Exodus 6:6-8)

Monday, 5 September 2011

but do we believe it?

I was listening to some favourite Christian songs on my iPod. They came from some radio programmes I did a few years ago; Breakfast Meditations. On the third or fourth morning I was thinking about the Greek word poiema. If it looks like our word 'poem' that is no accident, that's where our word comes from. It means 'made' but with the sense of a design and process and completion.

It's the word used in...
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, Rom 1:20 NKJV
You can see the sense of the word here as it refers to the creation. The 'creation' is not a random accident but a carefully planned and crafted work of art. It was designed and executed with a clear purpose that Isaiah identifies...
For thus says the LORD, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the LORD, and there is no other. Is 45:18 NKJV
There we have it. It was not created 'in vain' ie without purpose, but to be inhabited. What is the purpose of the creation? We are. But what is our purpose? Ah, that's another question.

The word poiema is only used twice in the Bible. The second time is in Paul's letter to the Ephesians.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10 NKJV
So each time poiema is used it is in the context of creation. The first time in the context of the natural creation but the second time in the context of another creation... the Church. By the 'Church' I don't mean a denomination or the conglomerate of Christian gatherings. I don't even mean the sum total of all evangelicals throughout the world. This is not an accumulation but a creation; a new creation. Something which did not exist and then as a result of carefully planning exists as a work of art which was executed with a master's skill.

So, is the Church a beautiful but fatally flawed human concept or is it a divine poiema? Is it the result of a Gentile section grafted onto a faithful Jewish remnant or is it a new creation?

For Paul it is a single family comprised of those in heaven and those on earth upon whom God has put his name; he has owned them as his own. Eph 3:14,15. Part of this new creation's purpose is to manifest to 'powers and principalities in the heavenly places the manifold wisdom of God'. Eph 3:10. Like the first creation is has not been formed 'in vain' but in order to be inhabited... by God himself. Eph2:19-22.

It is enough to keep us awake at night in breathless wonder at the audacity of God's great plan and work of grace... but do we believe it?